Category Archives: Africa

Through the Eyes of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone isn’t the first holiday destination most people think of.  In fact, most people don’t think of Sierra Leone at all, unless someone is discussing child soldiers or Leonardo DiCaprio movies (may I mention here just how impressed I was with Leo’s Saffer accent in Blood Diamonds?  No joke, he nailed it about as well as someone from Not-South-Africa ever could).

There are some very good books coming out of West Africa, though – books that really capture life, culture, and a world that people outside of Africa often don’t get to see either in person or in print.  With one of my newest favorite authors, Aminatta Forna, Sierra Leone is firmly represented on that growing list.

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That Time We Stayed in a Murder Hotel in Addis Ababa

Right at the start I can assure you, I’m not using similes, metaphors, or exaggerating.  Me.  Two kids.  Murder hotel.  Addis Ababa.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ethiopian Airlines for their high commitment of customer service in adventure travel (*COUGH*).

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Things No One in Zambia Would Say

There’s a lot more to travel than knowing what to go see and booking a flight to get there.  There are visa issues, of course, and those can be horrifying.  Then there’s the whole food thing – what can you eat? And are you sure?

It boils down to this:  if you know a little about the culture of the place you are going to visit, you can probably figure out a lot of stuff that might stymie a tourist who isn’t as interested in a spot of adventure.

And sometimes the best way to know what to do is to know what *NOT* to do.

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What’s a Durban?

I promise you, Durban really is on there. See?

I’m not going to lie, our family has a deep love of visiting South Africa.   It’s a fantastic place – one of the most beautiful places in the world -with incredible wildlife and an outdoorsy lifestyle that gives a visitor no chance for boredom.  And while I normally stop reading any travel article that uses the word “vibrant” to describe a place or culture, I honestly can’t think of any other word that fits South Africa as well.

If Vienna and London are imagined in the staid grays and whites of a proper European city and Budapest is a sepia tone of historic struggles, South Africa is bright purples and reds, with contrasting colors everywhere you look.

But when you are from America, South Africa doesn’t seem all that big.  After you visit the big tourist names of Cape Town and Johannesburg and see all there is to see on day trips, what else is left?

What is left is Durban.  And Durban is amazing.

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The Dark Side of Pointage – Staring Into the Customer Service Abyss

 

There's always a curry at the BA Heathrow lounge.  Except in this picture.  This is the one time.
There’s always a curry at the BA Heathrow lounge. Except in this picture. This is the one time.

I’m sure you can understand why, as of the middle of September, I was rather reluctant to use reservations we made using United mileage points way back in April.   Maybe you can’t.  But you *could* if I told you that those reservations were made on a route that would be using Accra, Ghana as a transit point to get from one place in Africa to Marrakech, Morocco in December.

Okay, maybe you’re still a little confused.  Let me illustrate:

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Dressing the Part

In my spare time I like to dress children as alternates for the It's a Small World ride.
In my spare time I like to dress children as alternates for the It’s a Small World ride.

I’m not even going to continue to try to make the case for yoga pants as the world’s best travel outfit.  It’s like arguing over the deliciousness of freshly made French croissants – it just IS.

But yoga pants on the airplane are one thing – we still need to plan out what to pack for the rest of the trip.  Unless you’re going to Vegas, you will need to actually pack clothes.  But what to pack?

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On to Jozi!

We visited JoBurg the day Madiba died.  There is no way we were going to miss seeing Nelson Mandela Square while we were there.
We visited JoBurg the day Madiba died. There is no way we were going to miss seeing Nelson Mandela Square while we were there.

Johannesburg, South Africa is not a vacation destination that immediately pops up when people talk about traveling abroad.  Paris?  Yes.  London?  Yes.  Hong Kong?  Bangkok?  Yes and Yes.  And if one actually does think about trekking to South Africa, it is generally Cape Town that does the honors (and believe me, it totally deserves that).

Johannesburg really should not be overlooked, though.  And if you’re going to Cape Town or Kruger National Park you’ll be flying through JoBurg’s OR Tambo airport anyway – why not give it a quick stop?

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Oh the Places You’ll Go!

It seems so simple – passport = travel to other countries.  I mean, I can make a reservation from JFK to Moscow on Expedia snippity-snap and take some pictures in Red Square should I so wish, right?  RIGHT?

Not really.  That fancy passport is pretty awesome, I’ll agree.  It is a ticket to quite a lot of interesting places and experiences.  But sometimes it takes a little more than showing up with a smile and a blank page waiting for a stamp.

A WHOLE PAGE?  It takes up a whole page?  That's expensive real estate right there!
A WHOLE PAGE? It takes up a whole page? That’s expensive real estate right there!

It takes… *cue O Fortuna*… a VISA!  American citizens can visit 172 countries without a visa or with a visa upon arrival.  The rest of them take some legwork, and a few of them have some very onerous requirements.

And what about those countries?  

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